The search is on to answer the question ‘Where’s Wally?’ - or Walter, as he is known.
The members the Friends of Derry’s Walls have launched an appeal for anyone with information on the where abouts of the missing decorative finial from the top of the Derry Walls Welcome Panels, affectionately known as Walter. The finial, created by a blacksmith in Scotland, was a representation in steel of the Walled City’s 1613 coat of arms. It was welded to the top of the main visitor welcome panel at Shipquay Gate. It was last photographed by visitors in Guildhall Square in 2010 just before contractors carried out the major revamp of the public realm in front of the City Walls. The Friends of the Derry Walls have issued a public appeal to secure its return or sponsorship for its replacement.
Mark Lusby, Project Coordinator, with the Walls Friends group explained: “ The welcome boards, located outside each of the four main gateways into the Walled City, play an important role in providing information to visitors on how best to experience the Derry Walls and in providing an overview of the history of the city. Over the past year the Walls Friends have been assisting the City Council to update the content of the 32 panels on and around the Walls and the Council contractors are currently installing the new panels.”
The finial on the Shipquay Gate panels was a quirky representation of the Walled City 1613 coat of arms showing the skeleton holding the Derry and the London shields in each hand. The skeleton is popularly thought to be that of Walter de Burgh who in 1332 was starved to death in the dungeons of the Norman castle in Greencastle, County Donegal. The finial was popular with tourists and was much photographed by visitors arriving in Guildhall Square. Enquiries to the City Council have failed to uncover what happened to the finial, which had been firmly welded onto the top of metal frame supporting the welcome panels.
Mark continued “The design for the finial was based on a cartouche from a 18th century map of the city and finial connected the modern welcome panels with the civic crests decorating Shipquay Gate and Magazine Gate in the City Walls immediately behind the panels. The welcome panels appear a little unfinished without the finial which is why the Walls Friends have issued this public appeal to find Walter. If we can’t find the original finial we are hoping that given the City’s tradition of both metal-working and art that a local business might offer to sponsor the design and manufacture of a replacement finial on a similar theme.”
Anyone who can help or sponsor the cost of a new decorative finial can contact the Friends of the Derry Walls by email to mark@theDerryWalls.com